Future chair goes on tour

“Sustainability must always have a chair at the policymaking table,” says Luca Visee, Campus Relations Manager for the GO Green Office. This week in the Atlas building students are exhibiting ‘the Chair of the Future’. This special chair serves as a symbol, or as the students themselves say a ‘catalyst’, whose aim is to encourage TU/e to give sustainability prominence in all its policymaking.

photo Bart van Overbeeke

The project came about in response to #futurechair created by Jan Terlouw. The former politician wants his initiative to prompt people to leave one chair empty at their meetings. Representing the future, this chair will remind us to consider sustainability when making today's decisions. The students at the GO Green Office (GGO) were keen to design their own version of the future chair, one that would be in keeping with TU/e's identity. Despite the good steps TU/e has already taken in the area of sustainability, they still see room for improvement.

The design

The design of the Chair of the Future is intriguing. Inspired by the Steltman Chair created by Gerrit Rietveld, all its angles are right angles and it wouldn't look out of place in a museum. The materials from which the chair is made are striking; used separately, they divide the chair into three distinct sections. “These [materials] represent the economy, society, and the environment,” Visee explains. Which innovative materials these are and why these particular materials were chosen to spread the message is explained on the exhibition's information panels.

Bright green plastic has been used to make the chair back. It has a marble-like texture, the result of a special smelting and recycling technique. This part of the chair symbolizes global human consumption, and thus our economy.

The seat has been made of the unconventional combination of wool, wood and fungi. This material has a complex development process or, more accurately, growth process. Wool and wood chips are inoculated with a live fungus. Because this starts growing, it forms a network of fungal threads, also known as mycelium. This fungal network holds everything together. In nature these networks hold the earth's soil together. This is why it has been used here to symbolize society.

The foot is made of a composite of green waste and brown seaweed. This is chemical-free and an almost fully renewable natural material. Which is why it symbolizes the environment.

University tour

The Chair of the Future can currently be admired in the Atlas building, where it is starting its university tour. Over the course of the tour, the chair will be exhibited in every department on campus. “It's intended to be a conversation starter, a source of information and a platform for giving input, for everyone who's interested,” explains Elano Franken, GGO's Strategic Manager. “Think of students, employees, departmental managers, the support services, programs, and research groups.” GGO's student members who are staffing the exhibition are asking the opinion of as many passersby as possible. What do they think? Is a transition needed? What's already being done well? What could be done better? And who's responsibility for bringing about this improvement?

The answers to these questions will be used by the GGO and the Sustainability Core Team in a series of upcoming meetings. Every stop on the exhibition tour will be followed by a department-specific meeting involving representatives of the interested parties. This will be a forum for discussion of the ways in which as a department they can bring greater sustainability to the areas of education, research, policy, and activities. “TU/e is so big that it introducing every change in a top-down manner is a very complex business,” says Franken. “Every department is different. Some are well advanced, while others have scope for improvement across a range of areas.” That's why this university tour is so important. It will become clear where there's still room for improvement in each department; and right away this matter will be given a chair at the department's table.

Until the end of Friday November 24th, you can catch the Chair of the Future in the Atlas building, home of the Industrial Design and the Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences departments. And you can leave your opinion with the GO Green Office team. Exhibition dates for all the other departments will follow later this academic year.

Leave your opinion for the GGO here, and catch the latest news by following @chairofthefuture on Instagram.

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